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Album Reviews : Stryper – God Damn Evil

By on July 17, 2018

The godfathers of Christian metal, Stryper, are back again with twelfth album God Damn Evil. While the yellow-and-black striped bumblebee outfits (a reference to the Bible passage Isaiah 53:5 where their name is taken from) have been exchanged for an aging rocker look of long hair and leather jackets, Stryper’s music has not lost its force or focus. While loving Jesus is hardly the most socially rebellious and controversial lyrical theme a metal band has ever engaged with, God Damn Evil has not been without its controversies, with major retailers in the US refusing to stock the album for committing the cardinal sin of using a ‘naughty’ word in the album title.

Opening track ‘Take it to the Cross’ sets all controversy aside with heavy and uncompromising instrumentation backing a band that wears their faith on their sleeve. Given that I was only really familiar with Styper’s glam metal output from the 1980s and early 90s, I was somewhat taken aback by how heavy the opener was, verging on a thrash metal track with a heavy chorus and guest vocals from Matt Bachand of Shadow’s Fall. Michael Sweet‘s vocals have lost none of their timbre or pitch, pulling off some impressive Rob Halford style vocal lines across the album. The vocals are supported by the clean and powerful production style on the album; all instruments are clear and heavy, vocals are at the fore and the bass is pleasantly fat and loud in the mix. The result is a nicely rounded sound that is especially effective for more melodic songs such as ‘Sorry’ and ‘Lost’ that bring out the choir and layered vocals.

Great, catchy choruses are par for the course here, with ‘God Damn Evil’ going full 80s and pumping out a chorus more reminiscent of Bon Jovi arena anthems than 80s trad intensity. ‘The Valley’ opens with an excellent Phrygian-tinged riff that adds a great swagger on the track while Sweet’s vocals channel the spirit of Ronnie James Dio alongside the Holy Spirit for some impressive melodies to back up a fantastic riff. Strong riffs continue to abound across ‘Sea of Thieves’ and ‘Beautiful’ to keep the momentum moving along for the second half of the album. ‘Can’t Live Without Your Love’ shakes things up with a power ballad worthy of 80s hair metal classics before ‘Own Up’ swaggers back into a hybrid of Bon Jovi catchiness and trad metal heaviness (complete with cowbell and vocoder effects). Closing track ‘The Devil Doesn’t Live Here’ verges on thrash metal, adding some Motorhead guitar and drum work into the mix and giving a final burst of energy to wrap things up along with one final assertion that they’re with Jesus, not the devil (in case you, like Walmart, hadn’t gotten the message by now).

With God Damn Evil, Stryper aren’t aiming for subtlety or nuance, but are here to provide straightforward and well-done trad metal to demonstrate that they’re still going strong after nearly 25 years. Big choruses, fat, heavy guitars, and catchy riffs and melodies make for a solid album but if you’re looking for variety and nuance you probably won’t find a lot here. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it allows Stryper to focus their sound on doing one style well. Based on the strength of this album (and a generally solid back catalogue), the upcoming Australian tour looks promising and worth looking into for fans of classic 80s metal.

Band: Stryper
Album: God Damn Evil
Year: 2018
Genre: Christian Metal
Label:  Frontiers Music
Origin: United States

About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.